Understanding the belowground interactions between trees and crops is critical to successful management of agroforestry systems. In a study of competition for water in an alley cropping system consisting of pecan (Carya illinoensis) and cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) in a sandy loam soil (Rhodic Paleudult) in Jay, Florida, root systems of the two species were separated by trenching to 120 cm depth. A polyethylene barrier was installed in half of the plots. Spatial and temporal variations in soil water content, root distribution and water uptake by both species, and leaf area development and height of cotton were measured. Interspecific competition for water was greater in the non-barrier treatment near tree rows than at the alley center. Competition became evident 3 to 4 weeks after emergence of cotton and increased during the following 7 to 8 weeks. Compared with the non-barrier treatment, the barrier treatment had higher soil water content and better growth of cotton (height, leaf area, and fine root biomass). Cotton lint yield in the barrier treatment (677 kg ha–1) was similar to that in a sole-crop stand, but higher than in the non-barrier (502 kg ha–1) treatment. Lint production efficiency of plants was higher in the interior rows in the non-barrier treatment (0.197 kg lint per square meter of leaf area, compared to 0.117 kg in the barrier treatment). The results suggest that trenching or even deep disking parallel to the tree row may reduce competition for water, but the impact on tree growth cannot be established from this study.
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Wanvestraut, R.H., Jose, S., Nair, P.R. et al. Competition for water in a pecan (Carya illinoensis K. Koch) – cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.) alley cropping system in the southern United States. Agroforestry Systems 60, 167–179 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:AGFO.0000013292.29487.7a
- Belowground competition
- Leaf area development
- Root biomass
- Sap flow
- Soil water